A Window Into Space…

Can We Cool Off our Warming Cities? After the break…

A Window Into Space…

Politics. Religion.

Two topics where normally sane people go bat-s**t insane when you contradict them on their beliefs / principles / morals / ethics / whatever.

OK, a few people go bonkers when talking about sports but how many wars have been fought over a goal or a touchdown or a home run? I can’t think of any. Can you?

Ever since a scientist read a religious document and replied to the effect, “Yeah, but…,” the overly religious haven’t been overly receptive towards giving science much of an audience except when to tar and feather them. Considering that this “hate/hate” relationship has been going on for more than a few centuries, I’m guessing that the icy reception that each gives the other won’t be thawing soon… Which is kind of ironic given the present climate situation.

And it’s not just religion that gives science the cold shoulder but “big business” as well, especially when it comes to the financial “bottom line.” Corporations aren’t very keen when science also replies “Yeah, but…,” when it sees a television advertisement or a billboard or a product on a shelf or a radio advertisement or a magazine article or… Or just about anything that promotes a particular product or practice.

Yet, to quote the esteemed author Philip K. Dick, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

And, in the world of reality, we’ve got a global temperature problem.

For a moment, let’s pretend that we don’t know if it’s man-made or not (we know that it is man-made but, for the sake of diplomacy, let’s pretend that we don’t know).

Hot cities are bad regardless of the source. Hot cities cost a lot to cool down. Hot cities cause disruptions in air currents which cause bird migration patterns to change. Hot cities affect any rivers that flow through them. Hot cities affect individual people’s behavioral patterns.

And the problem with hot cities is only getting worse, not better. There are more hot cities and the cities that are hot are only getting hotter (temperature-wise, let’s keep the discussion clean, shall we?).

There are potpourri of answers to hot cities: More aggressive public transportation systems; Painting the tops of skyscrapers white; Switching to outdoor LED lighting; Updating the electrical and water infrastructure; Using special reflective windows on skyscrapers; Reducing light pollution by pointing lights downward and having them more focused; Special formulations of concrete in sidewalks that absorb and disperse heat.

Each of these answers have benefits. Each of these answers have drawbacks.

Public transportation systems need political courage to happen and people to properly utilize them; Paint fades and needs to be constantly maintained; LED lights reduce temperature and usage but lights need to be replaced and fixtures sometimes need modifications to use the new LED lights; Upgrading the electrical and water infrastructure takes years and huge amounts of political courage to achieve (never mind insane amounts of money); Reflective windows sometimes redirect too much heat outward, resulting in cars and other nearby structures baking or bursting into flames (no, really… Use a search engine); Absorbent concrete needs to be replaced more often and it’s effectiveness tends to wear out over time.

Now, let’s add a new answer to the pile.

A team at Stanford University has figured out a way to turn the heat that is reflected off of buildings into a form that can be pushed back into space. In a way, it’s sort of like opening the window to a house to let hot air out and cool air in but, in this case, we’re letting the hot air out. The result are cooler buildings that need less electricity to cool down. In this case, we’re dumping the heat into outer space and there’s a whole lot of outer space. A lot of it.

Our cities are heating up. That’s a bad thing. Regardless of what is causing it (we know what’s causing it but I want to be polite to those readers who are breathlessly emphatic that we don’t know what’s causing it), we need a solution. This new revolutionary coating / polymer / spray / magic shield thingy is yet another new tool in combating this disturbing trend. It’s not the entire solution but it’s a start. And that’s what we need – To start dealing with this problem and, yes, it is a problem. The sooner that we start addressing this as a problem, the sooner we can benefit from implementing the solution.

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